Science

Human Brain Linked To Worms: Scientists Study Brain Mechanisms Using Roundworms

By Anne Dominguez , Dec 27, 2016 08:55 AM EST
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Brain, the most complex part of the human body might have some links with one of the smallest creatures on earth -- worms. A new study uses roundworm c elegans, which only measures about 1 millimeter, to gain more understanding about the mechanisms of the human brain.

Understanding how the human brain generates behavior is a mystery that haunted human kind for generations. It has about 86 billion neurons with trillions of connections that are yet to be mapped. Unlocking this mystery will have wide effects in treating psychiatric disorders as well as societal functions. Some researchers have found the key using worms.

C elegans are non-parasitic, transparent nematode worms which live in temperate soils. It is one of the creatures with the simplest nervous system which made it an easy model for studying neural behaviors. It was previously

Its brain is comparatively less complex human brain with only 302 neurons and 6,000 completely mapped neural wirings. However, it exhibits simple behaviors which are similar to human, like looking for food when hungry and other various social behaviors.

In a study published in Nature Methods on Monday, Dec. 26, the researchers developed robust tools to deliberately turn on or turn off the neurons in C elegans using the GAL4-UAS system, a tool for manipulating gene expressions. The system reduces the work required for making cell-specific perturbations using gene regulatory protein from yeast. It has similarities to circuits designed in electrical and computer engineering which uses breadboards.

According to Science Daily, the researchers are currently developing the system to be cell-specific or custom-made for each neuron. These variations will allow more precise gene expression control to gain more understanding of the cells in the nervous system of the worms which will be used as resources for developing models of the nervous system functions of the human brain.

 

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